It’s a common experience. You’re on holiday, having the time of your life, and on the way down to the beach you pause to glance in an estate agent’s window. Suddenly you realise that a slice of holiday paradise could be yours, and the more you think about it, the more it seems like an opportunity not to be missed. It’s at this point that you need to get your enthusiasm under control and start in on some careful research before you commit yourself.
Cost of living
When you are on holiday, there’s a tendency to take a much more relaxed attitude to what you are spending, but if you intend to buy property in your chosen location, you must get a clear idea of what living costs will be. Bear in mind that exchange rates fluctuate and that your money can go down in value, as well as up. As well as general living costs, you also need to look at costs throughout the year, air conditioning in summer, heating in winter.
There isn’t just one property that is right for you, there are hundreds, and the choice can be bewildering. Usually, it’s the low cost of property which sparks the desire to own property abroad. Croatia, for example has breathtakingly cheap property in stunning locations, Turkey is also a country where you can acquire a luxury apartment for a fraction of the cost of many European locations. Prime locations will of course always be more expensive: property on the Algarve will cost far more than property in inland Portugal, you just have to decide whether living that Faro beach life is worth the higher property price.
How will you use the property?
Be realistic. Will your lifestyle allow you to get reasonable use out of this property? If you have a young family, you need to consider whether they will want to come to the same location year after year.
How will this property fare when it is not lived in all year round? Will you return next summer to burst pipes and damp? What are the chances of your property being damaged by storms?
The British are notoriously lazy about assuming that everyone else will speak their language, but if you buy property which is off the beaten track, the chances are that all your interactions will be in a foreign language.
The most important of these is likely to be transport links such as major roads, railway stations and airports, but you should also ensure that you are not too far from a hospital. If you are planning on rebuilding a picturesque ruin, make sure that you have realistic access to building supplies.
Wherever you go in the world there are those who will prey on the unwary and foreigners with a tenuous grasp of the language are easy victims. Get everything in writing and use a bilingual expert in all your purchase transactions. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of laws which relate to the purchase of property by foreigners.